Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gov May Require Storm Shelters In Trailer Parks

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Gov. Robert Bentley said Monday at a tornado safety meeting he is open to requiring construction of storm shelters in mobile home parks either by asking legislators to pass a new law or issuing an executive order on his own.
Bentley, speaking in an interview after addressing a statewide gathering just a few miles from neighborhoods where more than 40 people died in houses and apartments during the April tornadoes, said too few shelters have been built with funding from voluntary federal programs.
Alabama could receive $100 million or more in federal funding for building shelters or adding safe rooms to existing structures, and requiring shelters may be the only way to ensure some people are protected, Bentley said.
"If you go in a mobile home park ... you ought to have a safe place," Bentley said.
The governor's comments came at the Safe Alabama Summit, a meeting of emergency management officials and local leaders to discuss lessons they learned from the waves of tornadoes that pummeled the state in April, killing more than 240 people and wiping out some 6,400 square miles of homes, apartments, businesses, schools and public buildings. Much of the meeting focused on adding storm-proof safe rooms to homes that are rebuilt or repaired in the coming months.
Mike Byrne, the Federal Emergency Management Agency official in charge of the disaster response in Alabama, said no one should be without a place to seek refuge during a twister.
"Living in tornado alley, how can you build a house or a community or a school or a public building without building a safe room?" he said. "It's just good common sense."
Mayor Jerry Mays of Phil Campbell, where 27 people died in an EF-5 tornado on April 27, said he would "absolutely" support a law to require storm shelters in mobile home communities. A shelter already is being added to a small community of 11 FEMA mobile homes that is being used to temporarily house tornado survivors, he said. He added that 50 residents of his northwest Alabama city survived the massive twister only because they were in a community shelter provided by FEMA a few years ago.
"We just need more of them," Mays said.
Federal disaster mitigation money will be available statewide because of the April twisters, Bentley said, and some of it should go to the coast. While emergency officials in Mobile and Baldwin counties have spent years mapping out ways to evacuate hundreds of thousands of residents during hurricanes, Bentley said he wants to use some of the funding to build new, hardened shelters near the Gulf of Mexico to lessen the need for mass evacuations ahead of storms like Hurricane Ivan in 2004 or Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"It is a new way of thinking," Bentley said. "Maybe it's the Bentley way of thinking."

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